Last Updated on February 9, 2022
Mint juleps, extravagant hats, pocket squares, and beautiful sundresses! Unlike other spectator sports, attending a horse race is a wide-encompassing experience. It is customary to dress for the event and plays a part in the track environment. Although the majority of races do not typically have an official dress code or mandatory apparel, it is important to know what to wear to a horse race track for the full race day experience. We’ve compiled a list of race track clothing do’s and don’ts so you’ll show up looking your best.
Type of Race
There are many types of horse racing and tracks. Typically, most people are referring to the traditional Thoroughbred oval tracks that fall under the Jockey Club. For these races, comfort is not the priority for spectators. In fact, attire for the traditional flat races can be compared to an iconic version of “Sunday best” for many. Other races may have a less formal atmosphere, especially if season-dependent. For example, the Kentucky Derby is a fashion-mecca! High-fashion magazines and media sources showcase the array of flamboyant and stunning apparel choices by spectators almost as much as the winning horse!
What to Wear to a Horse Race for Woman
Not all race tracks carry the same prestige and excitement as some major tracks. However, most flat races are still a socialite-type event where women are often dressed with high-fashion in mind. Some tracks will even have best-dressed awards for attendees!
Although weather dependent, women typically wear modest-length skirts or dresses rather than pants. If heels are not an option, dress flats are a comfortable go-to. Stockings make a comeback at race tracks, along with other accessories such as “Derby” style hats, gloves, and hand-held fans. We recommend fun colors, florals, and prints, or a traditional color scheme of spring pastels. Even closer to fall, many ladies wear autumn nudes still accented with bright colors.
Some races will have strict dress codes, and failure to adhere will result in no-admittance. The Royal Ascot heavily relies on a very traditional and prestigious dress code. The Royal Enclosure is yet another event with extensive dress code rules. Female spectators must have a headpiece or hat, no exceptions!
Find a headpiece to wear to a horse race here
What to Wear to Horse Races for Men
Male dress codes can seem stricter in some regards. For example, the men have more requirements at the Royal Enclosure than their female counterparts! Males must be wearing a three-piece suit complete with a top hat, while other races check to ensure men are wearing socks.
Although most races are not this stringent, men still typically attend in a suit, or at the very least, a collared shirt. Pastels and colorful accents are also a go-to for males. The dress code can typically be characterized as “smart dress”. A smart dress code consists of a suit, or at minimum, a shirt, and tie. This means appropriate footwear, socks, and a leather belt. The choice between a tweed blazer, formal suit, or collared shirt and bow-tie may be completely seasonal and weather dependent.
Find nice bow-ties here
Horse Race Basics
The best way to gain insight into the formality of a specific race is to visit the consumer/spectator website. You can also use social media hashtags and location finders to see photos taken of or at events! This provides an inside look to other guests that have been permitted to enter. Men and women will benefit from a smart dress code, but it’s better to be over-dressed than under at the track! Here is a list of our basic do’s and don’ts for your race-day attire:
- Conservative length dresses or skirts for women
- Collared shirts for men
- Pastels and fun colors
- Statement hats for big races
- Jacket or sweater
- Statement accessories for women
- Accessories for men (hats, matching pocket squares, and socks)
- Heels or dressy flats for women
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- “Smart dress” general attire
- Sneakers or sandals
- Provocative clothing or “club” attire
- Formal gowns
- Bulky bags or backpacks
- Baseball caps
- Sporty attire
- Logo items (or graphic tees)
- Sweatshirts or casual outerwear
Whether it’s your first race or a pro at the track, remember smart dress is key! Unlike many other equestrian events, this is a dress-to-impress event, especially at larger tracks with more publicized events. If you follow the guidelines above you are sure to fit in, and more importantly, you’ll be admitted into the track! Dressing up should be enjoyable and exciting. Part of the full race-day experience is the overall attire which contributes to the environment.
As spring race season opens, be sure to share this article with your friends!
Equestrian, Marine Corps vet, and Morgan horse enthusiast.